Fellow ambassadors, Mayor Tóth, members of the Lantos family, ladies and gentlemen – good morning.
It is a privilege to be here with you as we commemorate the birthday of Hungarian-American Congressman Tom Lantos. In his honor, we are gathered to name this street for him – a small change on the map, perhaps, but an important reaffirmation of Tom Lantos’ values.
Born and raised not far from where we now stand, Tom Lantos survived unimaginable persecution during World War II, solely because of his family background. But he survived, and when the war was over, Tom Lantos earned a scholarship to study in the United States, and he and his wife, Anette, eventually became American citizens.
Later, he became one of the most respected members of the U.S. House of Representatives, and was reelected 13 times by the people of California. As the only Holocaust survivor to ever serve in the U.S. Congress, Tom Lantos worked to ensure that the world his children and grandchildren would inherit would be a better and safer place. He co-founded the Congressional Human Rights Caucus and served for decades as Chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee.
Congressman Lantos was first and foremost a statesman, who understood the inherent danger in demonizing his political colleagues from “across the aisle.” He sought and built consensus, and understood that, after an election is over, the business of governing requires compromise and forbearance.
Congressman Lantos was a proud American – as he said when he announced he was retiring from Congress: “It is only in the United States that a penniless survivor of the Holocaust and a fighter in the anti-Nazi underground could have received an education, raised a family, and had the privilege of serving the last three decades of his life as a Member of Congress.” There can be no doubt that America was better because of Tom Lantos – for his life, his service, and his legacy, including the incredible contributions of his daughters and grandchildren — some of whom we are fortunate to have join us here today.
But America’s gain was also Hungary’s gain. All his life, Representative Lantos remained a proud Hungarian, and a proud son of Budapest. Hungarian by birth, and a committed American, he worked for the best for both of his countries, and he worked to strengthen Hungary’s ties to the West; to bring the stability, security, and prosperity that he wished for the land and the people of his birth. Far from seeing his love for America and his love for Hungary as being in competition – Tom Lantos believed, as I do, that the prosperity of our two nations’ is joined together, as allies and friends.
As we honor Tom Lantos, we gather together at the ideal location to bear his name: a street next to his alma mater – Berzsenyi Dániel Gimnázium – where many Hungarians will be educated. Mayor Tóth, I applaud the initiative of the 13th District and I appreciate the support of the Budapest City Council to name this promenade in honor of Tom Lantos. The Tom Lantos sétány will symbolize the many bonds between the United States of America and Hungary – and between the U.S. Embassy in Budapest and the 13th District.
Thank you very much – köszönöm szépen.